HC Deb 12 July 1976 vol 915 cc110-79

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Stallard.]

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)

The Committee of which I was Chairman was appointed on 17th May after some skirmishing about its terms of reference. When the Committee met next day it was clear that there was to be a meeting of the European Heads of State on 12th and 13th July and that the Government would have to take a view at that meeting on the matters which are the responsibility of the Community and which are listed in Part II of the Green Paper.

If the Committee had been unable to report by then, the Government would have had no help in formulating that view and the House, which would want to debate the matters, would have no guidance. In addition, if the Committee reported at a later date and came to a different conclusion from the Government, difficulties would have been created which we thought were worth trying to avoid. The Committee decided to try to get out its report in time, and it was published on 15th June.

Although progress was speedy and was perhaps something of a record, the Committee had the benefit of submissions from 60 organisations and individuals. The list is impressive. On behalf of the Committee I should like to thank all those organisations and individuals who cooperated in order to help the Committee stick to the timetable.

Many people perhaps do not realise that we were not asked whether direct elections were a good thing or whether they should be held. Our instruction was to consider proposals for direct elections to the European Assembly and the arrangements requiring action by Parliament and by the European Community following the Government's commitment to proceed to such elections. The question of the commitment of the House will be discussed tonight, but that was not a matter for the Committee.

We considered four matters—the size and composition of the Assembly, the date for elections, the period for which the Assembly should be elected and the status of members of the Assembly, with special emphasis on the dual mandate. I shall make a few brief comments on each of those, although the report speaks for itself.

On the matter of size, the Committee's finding follows the broad consensus of the evidence that we had, although we had suggestions ranging from as few as 45 members to upwards of 600. Our main concern was that the Assembly should be large enough to enable the component parts of the United Kingdom to have proper representation, and that that representations should match that of the smaller member States of the Community. Luxembourg had to be left out of our consideration and must be treated exceptionally anyway, as it has a population of only 350,000, whereas Northern Ireland has a population of 1½ million.

With that exception, we believe that population should be the other determining factor. The upper limit, however, should not be so large as to constitute difficulties for other countries that may wish to join the EEC. We decided to put the figure within upper and lower limits to allow the Government room for manoeuvre in the negotiations today and tomorrow.

I now turn to the date of the election. As it had been generally agreed that May or June 1978 should be the date, the Committee confined itself to discovering whether it was, in practice, possible to stick to that timetable. The Home Office evidence indicated that, assuming we were to use the present framework and practice of elections in the United Kingdom, although it would be a tight timetable, it was possible to complete preparations in time for May or June 1978.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

The right hon Member for Dartford (Mr. Irving) said that it was generally agreed that the date should be May or June 1978. By whom was it generally agreed? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman call more oral evidence?

Mr. Irving

The statement is made in the consultative document that there was general agreement. That general agreement is among Governments and no doubt the matter will be discussed in the debate tonight. There is a comprehensive summary about evidence attached to the report. We felt that all the evidence was there and that we should not get further elucidation by calling further oral evidence.

As to the day on which the results should be announced, there was strong evidence from the local authority associations and the chief officers against holding them on the same day as other elections. The local authorities associations told us: We cannot stress enough the probability of total confusion in the minds of the electorate if elections take place on the same day as other elections". The association also believed that to hold elections on the same day as other elections would be more expensive than holding them on separate days.

The Committee came to the conclusion that the Assembly should last four or five years. It thought that that was appropriate because it was in line with the four or five years which is the normal period for a fixed-term Parliament in Europe. The Committee expressed its preference for four years because that is divisible by two and would enable the European Parliament, if it wished, in future to alternate the election of members every two years.

The Committee decided that the declaration of results should be announced together, after the first ballot in any country which has more than one ballot. That is an obvious conclusion, and I will not comment further on it.

The Committee was in no doubt that the operation of the dual mandate was burdensome on members who had to spend a week or more at Strasbourg every month, which would make it difficult for them to play a full part in their own Parliament. However, it seemed to the Committee that that was a matter for the individual to decide. But to have no dual mandate could mean little continuity after direct elections. That is important at least in the beginning until other means of relating Assembly membership, membership at Westminister and membership of devolved Assemblies is worked out.

The work of the Committee is still proceeding on the practical questions involved in the conduct of elections. The Committee hopes to produce its final report by 30th October this year. The Committee reserves the right to look again at its findings if that is thought justified by changing circumstances.

I should like to express the Committee's warmest appreciation of the excellent and strenuous work done by the clerks to the Committee, Mr. Limon and Mr. Clark. I hope that the report of the Committee will be of service to the House.

7.9 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Hurd (Mid-Oxon)

I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if I were fairly brief in this limited debate and did not try to cover the whole of the ground covered by the report, but I must not be so brief that I forget to congratulate the right hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Irving) on all his work as Chairman of the Select Committee and on the skilful way in which he has presented his report. The House is much in his debt, and we thank him.

I should also protest on behalf of the Opposition at the way in which the matter has been handled procedurally by the Government. We are debating the subject at the very moment when the Heads of Government are debating it in Brussels. It is something that the debate has been brought forward by a few hours as a result of representations by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling), but that is not nearly good enough. If the reports just received are correct, the Heads of Government in Brussels have been discussing the matter for some hours. I understand that they are about to meet again and are expected to agree on a formula that would give a total of 406 seats, with the United Kingdom having 80. I am also told that the British Government appear to have accepted the formula without waiting for this debate.

The Minister of State will be able to say whether what I have heard is correct. If it is anything like correct, it reveals a deeply unsatisfactory state of affairs that has come about directly as a result of the Government's failure in their management of the business of the House to give the need to discuss European matters its proper status.

There has been throughout a series of delays and a perfunctory handling of this very important matter. It has been clear since December 1974, and perhaps before, that the question was coming to the fore as a matter for Community discussion. Perhaps the Government, within their own terms of reference, were reasonable in arguing that we should not consider it and think deeply about it until after the referendum in June last year, but I have never been able to understand why they took so long to produce a Green Paper, which did not see the light of day until February 1976, eight months after the referendum.

Then we had the debate at the end of March, but it was not until 30th April, a month after the debate in which the Prime Minister announced that there would be a Select Committee, that the motion to set it up was tabled. There was another delay of a fortnight, and it was not until 17th May that the Select Committee was set up.

A paradox has emerged. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and some Labour Members feel that the subject of direct elections is dangerous, because the powers of the House would be diminished, because powers would be filched from us by the European Parliament. I do not think that there is substance in that. It seems to me that there is clearly a need for a directly-elected European Parliament.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

What the hon. Gentleman said earlier proves our point.

Mr. Hurd

It proves something else. I believe that if we want democratic control over the central institutions of the Community, we must have a directly-elected Parliament. The story of the past few months and the handling of this business does not show that we are losing powers to a European Parliament. It shows that we are simply not effectively using the powers that we have to control and influence what British Ministers do on our behalf in Brussels. The responsibility for that failure by the House to exercise its powers, which no one is taking away from us—the matter goes far beyond direct elections, and applies to almost every European subject that we are called upon to discuss—is a direct result of the perfunctory way in which the Government have handled the business of the House on this subject.

It is not the fault of the Minister of State, but he has a responsibility. We know that the Leader of the House is a know-nothing in European matters, to put it at its politest. That puts a great responsibility on the Minister to be active at his elbow, saying—to take an apparently minor example, though perhaps not so minor—that we must honour the commitments of the previous Leader of the House to have a Business Statement on Europe at the end of every month. We did not have one at the end of last month. That is the kind of slipping and shabby handling of the matter that we see. It is time that at any rate we on the Opposition side of the House made a substantial protest about the way in which the House is asked to take these European matters.

Mr. Marten

Let us have a vote tonight.

Mr. Hurd

I say to my hon. Friend, who intervenes from a sedentary position, that if we had taken the advice of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) in a letter to The Times, that we should hold up the Select Committee's report even longer, we should even now be taking mountains of oral evidence when the Heads of Government are discussing the matter. We should then have the ludicrous situation that the House had condemned itself to even longer delays and we had ended up discussing something that was completely irrelevant.

We on this side of the House accept the Select Committee's conclusions, although we note that it has not yet begun to tackle the really sensitive and difficult political matters.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

When my hon. Friend says "We on this side of the House", he of course means some of us on this side of the House.

Mr. Hurd

My hon. and learned Friend has been a Member for much longer than I, but I think he will accept that there is a convention that I am allowed to use those words and that he is then allowed to qualify them or to deny his support, as he wishes.

We accept in particular the rather cautious judgment in the report about the numbers of members of the European Parliament. There is a balance to be struck between the likely work load, future membership of the Community and the need effectively to represent the different parts of the United Kingdom. I think that in its rather cautious bracketing of numbers the Select Committee has got the balance about right.

It is worth emphasising that the Select Committee does not recommend any division of those numbers within the United Kingdom. It has not entered into what will be one of its most difficult tasks—what balance the Boundary Commission, if it is given the job, should strike between the different parts of the United Kingdom within whatever total is agreed.

For historical reasons, enshrined in statute, Scotland is over-represented here, if we think simply in terms of population per seat, and Northern Ireland is underrepresented. There is no reason in logic why those considerations should necessarily apply in the representation of the United Kingdom in the European Parliament. In that respect, we start with a clean slate. It will be a difficult balance to strike between the need for a proper proportionality and the need to show that each part of the United Kingdom is adequately represented.

I hope that we shall not exaggerate the importance of this numbers game. So often one might think, particularly reading some comments coming out of Scotland, that it was vital for Scotland to have an enormous representation. One would have the impression that in the European Parliament one would see all the Scottish Members sitting together and speaking and voting for Scotland. That is not so. The European Parliament is organised on the basis of political groupings which cross national boundaries. The Scottish Members—as no doubt the Welsh Members will be when that situation arises—are divided among the different groups to which they choose to give their allegiance.

Therefore, the numbers game is of limited importance. What is important—particularly with the powers of the European Parliament as limited as they are, and as they are likely to remain for some time—is not the quantity of representation but its quality. What we are talking about is the power to influence the line taken within each group and therefore, at one remove, the line taken by the Commission and the Council of Ministers.

Mr. J. M. Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman does not accept the importance of having representation based on population?

Mr. Hurd

I cannot think that the hon. Gentleman has been following my argument. I have been saying that proportionality is an essential guideline and that in working out the arrangements for the European Parliament we do not need necessarily to follow in the tracks of the arrangements made for the House, which are far from being proportional.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)

I have heard with dismay the hon. Gentleman's explanation. Would he not accept that areas such as Wales and Scotland have such a rich diversity of characteristics that they need the same as other small nations in Europe, namely, stronger representation particularly to get the diversity in those nations across in the European context?

Mr. Hurd

There is something in that argument, but not as much as is often supposed. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could do me the courtesy of reading what I said. I spoke of a balance between his consideration and proportionality. That is one of the most difficult tasks before the Select Committee and the House when we come to discuss the next stage of decisions in, I suppose, the autumn.

Mr. Marten

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I heard a strong rumour which has come straight from the Common Market that the whole thing has already been agreed by the Council.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Order. I am in advance of the hon. Gentleman. Although I was not in the Chair at the time, I understand that an announcement has already been made to the House about the number of 480.

Mr. Marten

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was out of the Chamber at the time for about three minutes while I picked up this piece of news. Has it officially been announced by the Front Bench that an agreement has been reached at the Common Market? If that is so, and I understand it to be so, there is no point in having this debate. Could the Minister now send off to find out straight away whether the story is correct or—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) made a statement about conclusions or decisions which I believe we are awaiting. However, he asked the Minister of State whether he would confirm the statement that he made to the House.

Mr. Hurd

If my hon. Friend had been able to be present at the beginning of the debate, he would have heard me refer to a report which I had seen on the tape, possibly the one he saw. I asked the Minister to confirm or deny that. I protested in terms which perhaps my hon. Friend would accept as reasonably vigorous at the position in which that news, if true, placed this House and the debate.

I conclude with a word about the date and the recommendation of the Select Committee's report about May or June 1978. It has always seemed to me that there was no magic for Europe in that date.

There are two important considerations.

First, in each member State, particularly in this country, direct elections should take place in an orderly and acceptable way. We on this side of the House had in mind the need to find an orderly and acceptable way of fixing the boundaries of the constituencies.

The second consideration is that we should take part in direct elections at the same time and in the same week as our partners in the Community. I think that the argument for that is very strong. We all individually have our own ideas about what the priorities for Britain in the European Community should be—whether we should put all our effort into achieving reform of the CAP or a new common fisheries policy or a common foreign policy. We would disagree among ourselves about the priorities but we would agree that matters will arise in the Community in the next year or so where it will be vital that the bargaining and persuasive power of this country should be at its most effective, more effective than it has been hitherto.

Nothing would do more to weaken our bargaining power and to diminish Britain's weight inside the Community than our failure to come to the starting gate on direct elections at the same time as our partners. That would be a damaging blow to us as well as to the Community.

We support the report and the recommendations of the Select Committee as far as they go, while recognising that it is only at the beginning of its task and the most difficult part of that task lies ahead. I urge the Government to bestir themselves in the management of business of the House so that the European dimension of our duties here gets proper recognition which it has not had hitherto. We on this side, but for the caveat mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), do what we can to make a success of the important advance in democracy in our Community which we believe that direct elections should represent.

7.26 p.m.

The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

I shall begin by replying to the question that the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) asked me directly and which he described as a rumour he had picked up outside. There is absolutely no foundation to the rumour. I am instructed by the Prime Minister to say that he has not subscribed to any agreement today, nor will he until I have reported to him the outcome of this debate. I am equally under instruction to report to the Prime Minister the moment this debate is concluded and until then he will not come to an agreement with our European partners.

Mr. Marten

That ties in very much with the report that the agreement has been reached but that no announcement is to be made until after 10 p.m., which is borne out by what the right hon. Gentleman will do—to telephone the Prime Minister once this debate has ended. I should like this to be gone into and a report made about it. If that is true, it is a very serious thing that the Prime Minister has done. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) laughs from a sedentary position, but it is a most serious thing for the Government to do.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are not conducting the European Parliament yet.

Mr. Hattersley

I give the hon. Gentleman credit for not having heard what I said rather than accuse him of intentionally misrepresenting me. I said not that an agreement had been reached, but that an announcement would not be made until the debate had ended. I said that the Prime Minister was not willing to subscribe to any agreement until he had heard the views of the House of Commons. That is very different from what the hon. Gentleman was suggesting, which was that the agreement had been reached but would be kept secret until 10 o'clock. That is categorically not true.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of what the Minister said, I was under the impression that no decision was to be made tonight. This debate is on the Adjournment. Can you confirm that and that there is to be no view of the House registered, because there is no substantive motion before it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

This debate is on the Adjournment.

Mr. Hattersley

The House last debated direct elections over two days—on 29th and 30th March—and during that debate the Government were able to make four points clear. First, it was the view of the Government that the Treaty of Rome committed member States to eventual direct elections, and the Government believe that by signing the Treaty of Accession we have accepted that obligation. Secondly, the Government made it clear that the powers of the eventual elected Assembly were those specified in the Treaty of Rome—they could not be extended without the express agreement of the member States. The Government made it clear that they could not envisage a situation in which they could recommend the House to extend the power of the Assembly.

Thirdly, we made it clear that although the Government felt committed through signing the Treaty to direct elections, we could not commit the House, that the House would have opportunities to make its own judgment on direct elections, that that was a matter for the House alone. Fourthly, we said that it was our intention to consult Parliament as often and as deeply as possible. The first stage of that consultation was the two-day debate in March. The second stage was the Select Committee on Direct Elections which emerged from that debate and which was set up not only with wide terms of reference but in the knowledge that the European Council hoped to make progress on the arrangements for direct elections during its summer meeting. which is taking place today and will continue tomorrow.

Knowing that the crucial meeting of the European Council was only a few weeks away, when the Select Committee was eventually formed, the Committee decided unilaterally, and I believe rightly, that the best course was not to make a long theoretical study of the philosophy of direct elections but to grasp the opportunity which the Government hoped to offer to it of directly influencing the Government's policy and having a direct bearing on, perhaps changing the course of, the policy which the Government would adopt during the discussions in Brussels and Luxembourg. I emphasise that, in spite of a number of events which are not the Government's responsibility—this debate takes place a great deal later than the Government wished—the opportunity to influence the Government has not passed.

Sir Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

I agree with much of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but he commented that the events relating to the delay of this debate were not the responsibility of the Government. I accept that they are not the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman nor of his colleagues at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but surely they are the responsibility of the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary, who so confused business on Thursday night that the debate which should have taken place on Friday before the meeting of Heads of Government in Brussels could not take place and therefore is taking place now during the meeting in Brussels.

Mr. Hattersley

I am reluctant to venture into this contentious ground, because we should be discussing the substance of the report, but, as some hon. Members opposite seem to wish me to do so, let me say two things. First, the setting up of the Committee was delayed by a perfectly legitimate procedural device, operated over several nights by hon. Members opposite, which held up the setting up of the Committee. Secondly, we hoped to have a debate on Monday last, but we were approached by hon. Members on both sides of the House who said that that was not a convenient time for people involved in other European business and we allowed it to slip back by four days. I shall not allow my self to comment on the proceedings on Thursday evening. They do not seem to me to be the responsibility of the Government or to the credit of those who kept us here until past one o'clock on Friday afternoon.

I turn to the question of what is happening today. First, the Heads of Government, meeting today and tomorrow in Brussels, hope to decide and agree upon the four major outstanding issues on the organisation of direct elections. The first is the size of the Assembly and the distribution of seats within it among the member nations. The second is the date of the first election. The third is the duration of the European Assembly so elected. The fourth is the so-called dual mandate.

Many other decisions must be taken before the elections are held, but the EEC Governments believe that only those four major decisions are appropriate for corporate Community policy. The rest will be best decided by the individual member States according to their own individual preferences. The obvious example is the nature and form of the election in each country. That is left as a matter for individual member nations to decide. It will not be decided in Brussels this week. nor was it discussed or considered in the interim report of the Select Committee, because the Select Committee concentrated its interim report on those four immediate issues where the decisions and deliberations of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were imminent.

I turn to the question of those four areas of decision.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not saying that the European Council will not meet again, if necessary, to reach certain policy decisions on, for example, the provision of finance and infrastructure services in the direct elections which may well harmonise with what the individual member States will decide but will be within the ambit of the European Council on subsequent occasions.

Mr. Hattersley

I am saying what the hon. Gentleman hopes I am not saying or suspects I am not saying. There are only four major issues to be discussed and decided by Europe as Europe.

Mr. Dykes


Mr. Hattersley

The hon. Gentleman says "Now". The opposite of "now" is "a very long time", but I cannot believe that even in his time here, which probably is a good deal longer than that of others of us, including myself, the proposal for a common form of elections will be discussed in Brussels. That is something that individual Parliaments and Governments will decide. It is the four major issues which I have mentioned which the Heads of Government will discuss in Brussels over the next two days.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe) rose

Mr. Hattersley

I must make progress, because, the Government's case having been set out, the object of this debate is to allow the House to express its opinion.

During the two-day debate in March the Government said that they favoured an Assembly of 350 Members or more. In such an Assembly Britain would receive enough seats, first, to enable proper representation for the nations in the United Kingdom, and secondly, to ensure that constituencies, although very large, were still manageable for a single Member being elected on the traditional pattern of British elections. The Select Committee urged the Government to strive for an Assembly of between 350 and 425 Members. That we shall gladly do and that the Prime Minister is in fact doing.

I have explained why in the Government's view the Assembly cannot be too small. I reiterate what the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon said about its being not too large. The Assembly must not be so large that it is unmanageable even when the accession of new member States increases its total membership. The Select Committee seems to the Government to offer the right balance between the lowest possible size and the largest manageable size, and certainly the Government accept that part of its recommendations.

Secondly, on the question of the date of direct elections, the majority of EEC members hope that direct elections can be held in May or June 1978. The then Prime Minister endorsed that hope at the European Council meeting on 1st and 2nd December last, but he qualified his endorsement in two ways, and I mast repeat those qualifications now. First, we can implement the decision to hold direct elections only if and when Parliament carries the necessary legislation. Secondly, and equally obviously, we can remain in the proposed time scale only if the necessary administrative preparations which will follow the legislation can be made early enough for the elections to be held in good order.

Those are two important qualifications. It does not mean that the Government will not do their best to meet the timetable: they will. We shall use our best endeavours in good faith in the hope that we shall be ready by the spring of 1978. However, although we endorse the Select Committee's view that that is the time for which we should strive, out of fairness to our colleagues in Europe as well as out of honesty to the House, I must reiterate that there are two practical obstacles. If they can be overcome, all will be well. If they cannot, there will clearly be difficulties about the timetable which would make it impossible to hold the elections then.

The third major question being discussed this week in Brussels is the duration of the Parliament. That question has two sub-headings within the general heading. The first is whether the elections to the Parliament should be held on a single date or on different dates within the nine Member nations. The Green Paper which the House debated in March was specific about the Government's view on this question. Paragraph 20 read: On balance it seems best to have the whole European Assembly elected at the same time…for a fixed period. I know very well that there are very many rival theories—for instance, that the elections to the Assembly should be held on the same dates as national General Elections. But it seems to the Government, and certainly to me, that there are many administrative as well as other difficulties in principle associated with having a movable feast in Britain and a fixed feast in other parts of the Community.

The Select Committee said much the same in paragraph 16 of its report about having a single date for European elections, and the Government gladly agree. The Select Committee also said that a single date should be interpreted as covering a brief period of dates—Thursday by tradition in the United Kingdom, Sunday in France and Italy and in other EEC countries. I am absolutely sure that is right, and equally pleased to record that the Government subscribe to the same view as the Select Committee.

We share its view, too, almost exactly but not precisely, on the duration of the European Parliament which will eventually be elected. In paragraph 22 of the Green Paper the Government recommend a fixed term of five years. In paragraph 16 the Select Committee recommends four or five years. Then it announces a slight bias in favour of four years. The Government, too, favour four or five years, but they have a slight bias in favour of five.

I do not believe that this is a fundamental issue, and the Chairman of the Select Committee explained that the slight bias was because four was more easily divisible if we wanted a shorter term and rotating membership. The Government view stems from the fact that there was a strong feeling among our partners that five years was the right period, and we should like to meet them on that. It is the one issue on which the Government and the Select Committee disagree, but it is not a matter of principle, and, since the Committee has talked of four or five years, I am very near to embracing its proposal and announcing our agreement.

Concerning the issue of the so-called dual mandate, this is the system by which membership of the European Parliament is only open to Members of this House or by which membership of the European Parliament carries special automatic privileges in this House. I shall try to deal with the second point in passing in a moment. It is the intention, I think, of the Select Committee to deal with the second point, concerning automatic privileges for Members of the European Assembly, when it makes its second or next report. This evening I want to deal only with the issue of the formal obligatory dual mandate—a requirement which might say that no one was allowed to stand for election to the European Assembly who did not already hold a seat in this place.

The task to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will turn his mind today and tomorrow is an attempt—I believe it will be successful—to ensure that there is no obligatory dual mandate throughout the whole of the EEC. It would then be left for us on some future occasion to decide whether we wished to have a dual mandate here in the United Kingdom.

In honesty I have to report that when that argument arises, whether here or somewhere else, I shall be emphasising the overwhelming disadvantages of the dual mandate. The burden it would place on Members of both places would be intolerable. It is a peculiar sort of universal suffrage which says there shall be a popular democracy in the EEC when only some 600 Members of Parliament here and a number of peers are allowed to offer themselves as candidates.

Clearly, in regard to the minority parties, if I may so describe them—I refer to them in that way only in a numerical sense—it would be intolerable if they were told that they could not put up candidates for every seat, in the case of the Liberals, or for every seat in Wales, in the case of Plaid Cymru, in a General Election.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of dual mandate or membership, may I ask whether if he has considered the question of dual membership of the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies and of the European Parliament?

Mr. Hattersley

When many years ago I worked for Ray Gunter, he used to say "I have enough problems with my own issues without dealing with those of other people". I shall rest on that admirably cautious principle this evening.

The dual mandate is an issue which the House, from Britain's point of view, can and no doubt will decide later. Some of us will urge the unacceptability of such a proposal. All the Prime Minister is doing today and tomorrow is to ensure that it does not become compulsory throughout Europe and that it shall be left for us to decide at a future time. The Government are subscribing basically to the recommendation of the Select Committee, and in doing so I am happy once more to endorse what the Committee decided.

I know that very many Members are anxious to be assured about the future consultations on direct elections after the European Council has finished and before the final decisions are formalised and the legal implications finally determined. I am sorry—I say this frankly to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay)—that it has not been possible, because of the procedural necessities, to adopt his amendment this evening, because I believe that we could have met him on that. I shall have been happy if on one occasion at least I had been able to put his mind at rest.

But let me put the position to him exactly. If, as is possible but not certain, the procedure for formalising direct elections is to be a convention, before ratification of that convention the Government would seek the approval of the House of a draft Order in Council, under Section 1(3) of the European Communities Act. That would require an affirmative resolution by both Houses, and would therefore make a further opportunity to debate the subject obligatory and unavoidable. If the procedures adopted were not a convention, I assure the House that the Government would want to provide a parliamentary opportunity—I am not sufficient of an expert on parliamentary procedure to describe exactly what it would be—to ensure that the House had the same chance of debating the subject as if the convention were the chosen means by which it was given legislative form.

Of course—this is always the final word on direct elections—Parliament will be asked to approve the necessary legislation which implements direct elections and makes the holding of direct elections possible. Therefore, whatever the form of the legalisation of the Community's decision, Parliament will have the last word on whether direct elections are held in this country. None of us complains about that. Nobody in the Government is sorry that the long process of consultation which began in the last two days of March will continue. It is all part of our determination properly to consult Parliament and, through Parliament, the people.

That enables me to offer a final word of thanks to the Chairman and to the members of the Select Committee—other than myself—for the speed with which they have operated in order that the process of consultation can better be carried out. I do not thank them because they did it as a service to the Government but because they did it as a service to the House of Commons, enabling us to debate the matter this evening. It will enable me to report the discussion to the Prime Minister later this evening, and it will enable the Prime Minister to take account of the observations made here before he makes his final dispositions in (relation to his colleagues and others tomorrow.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

This is a strange debate that we are having this evening. It is a humiliatingly strange debate. The subject which is before us is, I suppose, the most important, the most fundamental, subject for the very existence of this House and its authority that could be imagined. It is no other than whether there is to be established a separate and concurrent representation of the people of this country—a representation that is to operate within the framework of an organisation which has been given overriding powers over this Parliament, and which, by the confessed intention of those who approve our membership, is to extend its authority progressively over all the major spheres of our national existence.

That is the subject. But the Prime Minister is not here. The Foreign Secretary is not here. Perhaps I should add that the Leader of the House of Commons—the most pertinacious and eloquent enemy of this whole business—is not here. I expect he is not far away. He is certainly not so far away as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are, with their fellow Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries, at this moment engaged in effectively deciding the very question which is the subject of this debate. Although we appreciate the courtesy—I do not use the word ironically—of the message that we received from the Prime Minister, what cannot be conveyed to the Prime Minister by the Minister of State is the view of this House, for no view on this subject will or can be taken by this House this evening.

It would be necessary to go very far back in our history to find a parallel to what is happening in this Chamber. I am inclined to think that we have to go as far back as the last days of the Rump, on the eve of its dismissal by Oliver Cromwell—the remnant of a House of Commons from which the power had departed and which knew perfectly well that the effective decisions about the government of the country were being taken in other ways and outside this Chamber.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

It came back, though.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) has jumped to the end of my speech. I shall conclude with some such reflection as that.

The Minister of State says that it is not correct to say that the decision is being taken elsewhere. Let us examine this. If the European Council today or tomorrow comes to a conclusion, not merely will the authority of the Government be committed to that conclusion and that agreement, but, when it comes before us, in whatever form, for ratification, as did the Treaty of Brussels on 20th January 1972, we shall be told, as we were told then, that the honour of this country is already committed. Then, when the legislation is placed before us to implement that agreement in terms of our domestic law, once again, as through those long months of 1972, we shall be told in the time-honoured words that we are debating only the "nuts and bolts", that, since we are implementing a convention or an agreement—by then it will be a treaty in some form or another—we are not able to depart from the ambit of it.

The reality is that the decision in this matter is being taken elsewhere. As Mr. David Wood writes in The Times today, For good or ill… Westminster power has been passed elsewhere, into the keeping of ministers and later perhaps into an elected Parliament. There is some dispute about whether technically we are, by virtue of our acces- sion to the European Economic Community, committed in principle, though we cannot be committed in particular, to participation in direct elections to a European Assembly and to agreement, which is impossible without us, to there being direct elections. There was an extremely cogent argument by a distinguished "silk" a day or two ago in the correspondence columns of The Times which argued that the commitment was solely to direct elections "with a uniform procedure" and that, if that was not what we were agreeing to or discussing, what we were agreeing to or discussing was something to which there was no commitment. There has also been the long debate, ably sustained by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and others, about whether the wording of Section 138 of the Treaty of Rome necessarily implied acceptance, by accession to that treaty, of the duty sooner or later—and with good will—to comply with the principle of direct elections.

But these, though important, as the word of the law and the words of a treaty always are important, still miss the reality. Those who have taken part, usually less numerous than the attendance this evening, in our nocturnal debates upon various instruments of the European Economic Community have frequently remarked with varying degrees of irritation that, whatever we debate that comes from the European Community, before we are well started we seem to be back to square one, discussing whether we ought to belong to the European Economic Community at all.

That is not surprising, because everything which, even within that narrow ambit, comes before this House essentially poses the question "Will you go along with this, or will you insist through Ministers that, whatever others do, it shall be the choice and the will of this House only which shall prevail?". So even in the smallest details that ultimate testing point is always present to the mind of the Chamber and to those taking part in debate. That is so a fortiori of this great, and essentially new, question. It is not merely that, as a matter of form, the agreement of the United Kingdom is necessary for it to proceed. It is because on so great a matter as this—the history of the European Economic Community has proved it—any nation which wishes can have its way. Therefore, the Government and, therefore, Parliament and, therefore—for it is ultimately the same thing—the pople, are deciding de novo and without moral commitment whether they will create a parallel and in nature superior representation of the electorate of the country.

Nothing can bind a nation member of the Community to accept the principle of direct elections against the will of its Parliament or against the will of its people. If the refusal of one nation or another means the end of the European Economic Community in that form, so be it.

I do not believe that those whom we represent are fully seized of what it means that there should be direct elections to a European Assembly. It would be insulting to blame them, since it appears to me that many who sit in this House and have more opportunity to direct their minds to these matters are not seized of it. Yet in essence it is simple. It is that, if we create for an institution, for an embryo state, such as the European Economic Community, a direct source of popular authority, sooner or later nothing can prevail against the expression of that popular authority and no artificial bounds can be set to its extension.

I quote once again from the article in The Times today, for I thought that it was extremely well expressed. It says: …the argument for a European Parliament is that once created on a popular vote it will demand and get more and more power. Indeed, by the very logic of the European Economic Community and by the very intentions of those who will it, that has to be so, since its power must extend coevally and co-equally with the extension of the authority of that state. So, on whatever side of this debate we may be, at least there should be no fluffing and muffling of the fact that, once again, even in three hours on the Adjournment, this is the Great Debate; and it is the Great Debate brought forward again unprejudiced.

Sir Anthony Royle

I personally take the view that I would not be upset if there were an increase in the powers of this Parliament along the lines the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. Would he agree that if those powers are to be passed and agreed by this Parliament the matter must come again before this Parliament and the other nation Parliaments of the Nine?

Mr. Powell

Yes, and let us all understand what the debate will then be like; for we have been through this several times already. What shall we be told? We shall be told "the representatives of the very same people who sent you here, along with their other colleagues in the European Assembly"—the very persons to whom we in this House decided to entrust the popular mandate when we set up direct elections—"have asked for and have resolved in favour of an extension". How will we, who exercise our powers by virtue of our representative character, say "nay" to that, when this is the next stage for which they ask and upon which they are resolved—especially when, very likely, they include a majority, for all I know, of the representatives of those sent from the United Kingdom? Whose authority is going to prevail—the authority of this provincial Parliament or the authority of the representatives of the electorate of the United Kingdom in the seat of that super-State to which this Parliament has conceded, broadening as ever by the extension of the treaties, overriding authority over all the essential and characteristic powers of this House?

Mr. Dykes

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Powell

I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I am sorry but I really must not. I do not think it is fair to hon. Gentlemen who will be taking part in a debate compressed into this dimension. I must deny myself of the pleasure to which the hon. Gentleman invites me.

I was about to conclude by reminding the House once again of what was the basis of the referendum—the statement which the Government, with full responsibility, made to the British people at the time of the referendum. It was that continued British membership of the Community depends upon the continued assent of Parliament—which, since we are periodically elected, means the continued assent of the electorate. So long as we are recognisable as a Parliament, the people of this country at every moment, either through this House, or by recreating this House, have the moral and legal right to withdraw their assent to what exists as well as to deny their assent to what will be proposed.

I do not know how that will happen or whether it will happen. I myself believe that when the people of this country, whose history is inseparable from that of this House, understand what is meant by the forfeiture already made on their behalf, let alone by the forfeiture of their independence and self-government which would be implicit in direct elections, then they will not suffer it. That is a judgment which every one of us must make for himself; but it ought to be understood, not just by the Government but by the world outside, that there are those, and they are not few, inside this House, and there are those, and they are not few, outside this House who are convinced from what they believe of the very character of Parliament and the British people that what we have done will not endure and that if we take this further step, that, too, will be a house built upon sand.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I do not think it would be right for those of us who are present to say that we are grateful for the opportunity given us tonight because, in doing that, we would be saying that we have to beg the Government to give this House time to debate this vital and important issue. The House knows that this was originally put down on a motion to approve the Select Committee Report last Friday. My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and others of us put down an amendment which asked that nothing should be decided unless and until the full package had been debated and decided by this House. However, we are not now debating that amendment. The Government may claim that it was not their fault, but the fact is that we do not have a substantive motion before us and it has been impossible for the Government, for procedural reasons, to put the amendment on the Order Paper down for this debate between seven and ten o'clock.

This is by no means untypical of the problems that this House has always had when it comes to debating Community matters. That is not a surprise, because any executive outside this House is always in tension with it—just as the ex- ecutive in Whitehall is and the executive in Brussels—the new executive for this country and this House—is always in tension with this House.

We are now debating this matter on a motion for the Adjournment on which the House can make no decision. Let it go out tonight, to the Prime Minister and to the British people, that whatever happens as a result of this debate, there is no decision on direct elections, because this House has never been given the opportunity to debate that in principle. We may have discussed it, and we may have been consulted, but we have not yet decided. As I shall hope to show, nor have the British people.

The second aspect of the difficulty is that even the Government do not know the legal instrument, and the nature for putting into effect, any decision which may be taken at the so-called summit tonight, if it is taken. The Minister of State, in reply to a Written Question on 5th July, told me that it might take the form of a draft Order in Council under Section 1(3) of the European Communities Act. He added: Whatever legal form is chosen the Government will ensure that Parliament has an opportunity to examine the text and consider proposals for its implementation."—[Official Report, 5th July 1976; Vol. 914. c. 389.] That is very nice of him. He has gone a bit further tonight. He said there will be a parallel opportunity—presumably a parallel opportunity to the Statutory Instrument procedure—which is a travesty of democracy on the weight of the issues being decided. For any Government, and a Labour Government, to decide on 3rd November to define a Community treaty in exactly the same parliamentary procedure as the domestic Statutory Instrument is an outrage against democracy. It was on 3rd November that the House was deceived into passing that particular Standing Order. It was an outrage for democracy, even if we get our European Communities Act procedure. For the House to decide that such a vital issue under Standing Order 73A, which is applicable to a domestic Statutory Instrument, is an unparalleled monstrosity perpetrated not only on this House but upon the British people.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us what procedure will be used. He cannot even tell us what instrument will be effected after the decision which, no doubt, the Prime Minister will in some way take tonight. There was some argument in respect of New Zealand butter when the summit renegotiated the treaty under our Government. I hope, in winding up the debate, that my hon. Friend will tell us whether the effective instrument which will be put into effect, whatever is decided in Brussels today or tomorrow, will be decided at that meeting or whether it is to come to some future Council for a future decision under some sort of legal procedure.

If the Prime Minister is taking a decision tonight which is subject to some sort of procedure in this House, however slight—under Standing Orders one and a half hours' discussion, although the Government may give us more—on what sort of mandate does he claim to be able to take it?

Up to the referendum, the Government kept quiet about this apparent obligation to direct elections. Some of us claim that there is no such obligation under the Treaty. The Government said there was no need to worry because there was no date fixed in the Treaty. On 18th March 1975 the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), was challenged by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) to say whether the Government were in favour of a directly-elected European Parliament and how political union was defined. My right hon. Friend referred him to the communiqué issued after the Paris meeting in which our position was entirely reserved on all these matters until after the referendum."—[Official Report, 18th March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 1478.] If, as the Government claim, there was an obligation under the treaty—which some of us refute because we regard the treaty as ambiguous—why did the Prime Minister not spell it out at that time?

Another opportunity arose in May last year when the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) asked: Is it not the plain and simple fact that under the treaty it is obligatory, at some time, to have direct elections to the European Parliament? Is not the only question, assuming continuity of membership, when? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, who was then Minister of State at the Foreign Office, replied: I think there is nothing plain and simple about the issue at all."—[Official Report, 21st May 1975; Vol. 892, c. 1404.] That was the Government's view before the referendum. They were twice given the opportunity to spell out what they claim to be an obligation under the treaty.

Nor did the Government say very much about direct elections during the referendum. They brought out a colourful leaflet in which two pages were devoted to the question whether Parliament would lose its power. But there was no mention of direct elections.

I do not think hon. Members opposite can claim that direct elections will not reduce the power of this House. Why was that fact not included in the leaflet sent out by the Government?

Mr. Marten

It was a con trick.

Mr. Spearing

If that is so, what is the Prime Minister doing in Brussels tonight?

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Getting the job for Roy.

Mr. Spearing

The "No" leaflet distributed to every household during the referendum mentioned direct elections, but the "Yes" leaflet produced by the organisation of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Jenkins) is a vice-president said nothing about the subject. It said: The position of the Queen is not affected. She will remain Sovereign of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth. Four of the other Community countries have monarchs of their own. Of course the Queen, in physical form, and her successors may remain, but the point which is forgotten is that the position of the Crown in this country is unique. It is a dictatorial hierarchial executive authority within the State which has been taken over by a democratic body—this House. The executive of which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State enjoys being a member, is the executive of the Crown controlled by this House. At least since the death of Queen Victoria the Crown has been neutral in political matters, mainly taking the advice of Ministers whom this House sustains and maintains in Government. This House puts through the laws, even though the Queen signs them. The executive is in the hands of the House and the Government which this House puts at the head of the executive to operate the Crown on behalf of this House and the British people.

Now that we have acceded to the Treaty of the European Community, we have a new executive in Brussels. That treaty is superior to the whole apparatus of the historic executive of this country seen through the Crown.

The Queen is now subject to that executive and the terms of the Act. Until now, one could have said in this House that if a majority wished to leave the Community or vary the European Communities Act or, indeed, do anything at all, we could tell the executive exactly where to get off and, if necessary, pull it down as the House did to the executive of Mr. Neville Chamberlain in 1939.

That is because everybody here is directly elected by his constituents. If one directly elects anybody else to a legislature, assembly or Parliament linked to a superior executive, that clearly prejudices not only the power of this House but its continued existence and superiority. That is what a large number of people, particularly the Liberal Party, seem to have forgotten.

In his famous report, Mr. Tindemans looks forward to exactly that when he says: Direct elections to the Parliament will give this Assembly a new political authority. At the same time it will reinforce the democratic legitimacy of the whole European institutional apparatus. A consequence of the Parliament's new authority will be an increase in its powers which will take place gradually in the course of the progressive development of the European Union, notably through a growing exercise of the legislative function".

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Spearing

If my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) sees the legislative power of the European Assembly and executive gaining power only at the expense of this House and the domestic executive of the United Kingdom, let him say so here and now.

Mr. William Hamilton

If my hon. Friend had read my speeches, he would know that I had said that many times before.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend is at least honest enough to declare that he is an out-and-out federalist. Certain other hon. Members opposite and on this side have done the same. Unless an hon. Member can stand up to his electorate and say that he believes in a unitary or federal European State, in which we should sink the identity and independence of the United Kingdom in some form of an EEC United States of Europe, he has no right to vote in favour of any scheme for direct elections which may emerge from the meetings today or tomorrow.

Such an hon. Member will be voting to give away power which is not his to give away. This argument was used at the time of the European Communities Act. It did not commend itself to the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) who told us that he went to negotiate—no more, no less. We know what happened. He negotiated away considerable powers of this House and the British Government. He pooled the sovereignty.

Mr. Dykes

Will the hon. Gentleman say what he thinks would happen after direct elections if all the sovereign Parliaments of all the member States and all the member Governments of all the member States were against any extension of the powers of the European Parliament?

Mr. Spearing

I think that we might develop a European Community that I should like to see—namely, a cooperative grouping of independent nations that would co-operate with each other without any power of legitimising the majority to overcome the minority. It may well be asked whether all of my hon. Friends who have doubts about the EEC fully subscribe to a European organisation of that sort—namely, one of international co-operation and not of supranational authority. Those in favour of direct elections create a supranational mechanism that overcomes the system of international co-operation that I have outlined.

The procedural way in which we have approached this matter is typical of the way in which EEC matters have been badly dealt with in the House. Even if we get a debate under Standing Order 73A our procedures will be seen to be inadequate. Of course, the Government themselves do not know the legal instruments whereby direct elections might be brought in. That, in itself, is a warning. That is why we say that there must be a full debate on the motion with the opportunity for amendments. Any hon. Member who wishes to vote for direct elections when the opportunity comes should make it clear to his or her constituents that they are voting for the end of an independent United Kingdom.

Mr. Hurd

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Since the Minister of State spoke I have heard from good sources in Brussels that a decision has been taken about elections for the European Parliament. I have heard that the composition of the Parliament is to be 410 seats, with 81 seats for the United Kingdom. I understand that the decision will be announced at 10 o'clock. This may well have developed since the right hon. Gentleman spoke. He may well have been unaware of the decision. Does he wish to modify in any way what he has told us?

Mr. Hattersley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been in the Chamber since I gave my assurance. That was the assurance that came from the Prime Minister, and, therefore, I accept it, as I am sure will the House. I think that we need to be careful about what we say as to the accuracy of such reports. The hon. Gentleman has now reported that two different figures have been agreed. I think that prompts us to regard with some caution the accuracy of the reports. The hon. Gentleman cannot have been right on both occasions. I shall make inquiries. If my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has anything to tell the House when he replies, he will do so. I understand the importance of the hon. Gentleman's point.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, Member for Newham, South (Mr. North)

The possibility exists that the Minister of State may be the subject of one of the con tricks to which the hon. Spearing) was referring. The hon. Member for Newham, South did not disagree with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), but I do. The Minister of State should be careful that he is not being used to mislead the House as to the true nature of events taking place in Brussels.

The information that my hon. Friends and I have had for some time is that the decision was made at 7 o'clock this evening, and that the only delay is that of making an announcement. Apparently, it is not to be made until shortly after 10 o'clock, by which time this debate will have ended. With all the good will in the world, I cannot see any method whereby the Minister of State will have any detailed discussion with the Prime Minister which will affect the decision that we believe was made an hour and a half ago.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that it would not take the Foreign Office two minutes to get on the phone to the Prime Minister and to receive an answer literally by return. My right hon. Friend could receive an answer directly from the Prime Minister if he wanted to take that course.

Mr. Fletcher

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman that the information could be made available to the Minister of State. However, I said at the beginning that unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman might well be subject to a con trick in allowing the debate to go ahead. The only caveat that has been made about the 7 o'clock decision is that the announcement itself should be delayed.

I do not know what sort of men the Government think they are dealing with in Europe. What do they think of the President of France or the Chancellor of Germany? What do they think when we have a debate such as this and we try to suggest that some mechanism is in use at Westminster that may have a bearing on the final outcome of the summit meeting in Brussels? To think along those lines is to underestimate the calibre of person with whom we are dealing in the Community. That makes this debate a charade. In fact, it is a post-mortem on the decision to which the Government have already committed themselves. [Interruption.]

I quite understand why the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) feels sore about the tactics and antics of the Government Front Bench. My hon. Friends and I feel sore about the way in which European business has been handled and the way in which important matters of this sort have been handled. I am bound to say that politicians in Europe, good friends of Britain, feel equally sore about the way in which the Government attend to European business and the way in which they attempt to make decisions about Europe. That is why a week or two ago the President of France visited the United Kingdom—namely, to find out what the Government had in mind regarding Europe.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

It is not just that I doubt that the hon. Gentleman is anything like so naїve as to think that our negotiators would have told the President of France and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic "Wait dramatically until the horses arrive from across the Channel, because an important decision is being communicated from there". I am equally amazed by the humbug and hypocrisy of the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd). He agrees with all the decisions and is partly responsible, as the adviser of the former Conservative Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), yet he has the nerve today to criticise the Government, who are acting in accordance with the sell-out for which his Government were responsible.

Mr. Fletcher

If the hon. Gentleman is looking for nerve, he need look no further than the Government Front Bench. That is where the nerve is being exercised in the whole of this debate.

I return to some of the points of substance. It is extremely hard to understand why it took the Government from June 1975 to set up a Select Committee to debate and discuss direct elections. Why did it take the Government until March 1976 to have a debate on the subject, and until May 1976 to set up a Select Committee that had barely four weeks to try to reach some conclusions on the size and composition of the European Parliament, and to give some advice to the Government in particular and to Parliament generally? The Government's tardiness in this respect suggests either general incompetence in handling the business of the House, or a complete lack of understanding of the significance and importance of the events taking place tonight in Brussels.

This proposal means not just a change in the European Community. It means a major change at Westminster, and it is naїve to deny that major changes will affect this place with the coming of direct elections in the EEC. I can think of nothing that will bring the political presence of Europe closer to the people of Britain than the incidence of direct elections in Europe, and I can think of nothing that will mean a greater constitutional change for this country than the incidence of direct elections in Europe. I say this as a supporter of direct elections and as a supporter also of the European Parliament. Yet I am surprised by the flippancy of Members on the Government Front Bench when it comes to debating major subjects such as that of direct elections.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) talked about the growing powers of the European Parliament. It is hopeless to deny that the powers of the European Parliament will grow. They will grow for the very reason that the European Parliament is set upon chasing the Executive and trying to master the Executive in Europe, and while this is happening the decline of this Parliament takes place because for some reason or other this place lacks the will to check and control the Executive. It is not so much a constitutional difference that we are witnessing between Britain and Europe: it is an absence of will in this place which will bring about so much that we as Members of this House decry.

Mrs. Dunwoody

If that is so and if this is the power that the European Assembly is seeking, will the hon. Gentleman tell me, as a member of that Assembly, why the Assembly is dilatory in setting up the public accounts committee that would give it that power and why it refuses to take the powers that it already has and use them effectively?

Mr. Fletcher

It has taken some time to set up the committee, but it does exist and it is operating now in Europe. The European Parliament may hasten slowly, as all Parliaments do, but it is a Parliament on the ascendancy, which is quite opposite to the situation at Westminster. That is why there is so much feeling in this House and elsewhere about the powers of the European Parliament compared with the decline in the powers at Westminster.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Does not my hon. Friend think that the reason for this very true difference is the excessive power of the parties and the excessive tightness of their organisation here and the fact that in the European Assembly the parties are as yet in an embryonic stage? Does not my hon. Friend fear that when they become as well established there, the same mortifying effects will show?

Mr. Fletcher

My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. There is in Europe a common purpose among the parties in Parliament to see the Parliament strengthened, compared with the situation here where there is no common purpose across the Floor of the House. It may be, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) predicts, that in time partisanship will destroy a great deal of that common purpose, but while it exists it is admirable, and I believe that it will strengthen the powers of the European Parliament.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Where was the hon. Gentleman last night?

Mr. Fletcher

One of the great disappointments of this debate is that Parliament ought to have been asked to consider this matter long into the days and nights, in a long and serious debate about Europe, about direct elections and, indeed, about the powers of the European Parliament, and we should have been able to express those views to the Prime Minister long before he and the Foreign Secretary departed for Brussels. The reasons why this has not happened all add up to the fact that we on this side of the House and, I sense, a number of hon. Members opposite are rather disgusted by the bungling performance of the Lord President of the Council in his efforts to manage the business of this House.

The only thing about the Select Committee worthy of congratulation is the fact that the Minister responsible for the legislation was a member of the Committee, as was his opposite number, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd). This sort of pre-legislative work in a Select Committee has done one good and and important thing for the future of Westminster.

My hon. Friend mentioned the representations from various parts of the United Kingdom, and I should like to make a few remarks on those lines. I agree that the numbers game is not very important, although I may agree in a rather different way from the manner in which my hon. Friend expressed himself. It is certainly not as important as regional representation, regional identity, in trying to form constituencies for direct elections to Europe. Here, I think, it is necessary, first, to try to get the balance right in respect of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland and the regions of England.

There are two important considerations. I hope, first, that the distribution of seats within the United Kingdom will not turn out to be a fait accompli after tonight. I hope that we shall not for some reason or other find in tomorrow's newspapers that the Government have done more than agree the composition of the Parliament in Europe and have in fact committed themselves to some sort of distribution within the United Kingdom. The House should have an opportunity to debate that matter.

Second, it is essential that we do not just pay lip-service to regional representation and the fact that there is a regional identity in various parts of the United Kingdom. One has only to look at the position of Northern Ireland, where, under the old formula of about 67 seats for Britain, there would be two for Northern Ireland, to see how absurd it would be in comparison with the present 10 seats for the Republic of Ireland and the prospect of 13 or 14 being made available to the Republic. Plainly, the number of seats for Northern Ireland cannot be smaller than three, and even that seems a ridiculously low number for its population. Certainly, the number cannot be smaller than three; indeed, it should be four, or even five.

The same applies to Wales, with a population equivalent to that of Eire. There is talk of four or five seats for Wales. Again, those must be minimal figures if one is to have any kind of representation from the distinct country of Wales in Europe as part of the United Kingdom's representation there.

Scotland has a population of over 5 million, equivalent to that of Denmark, and here, too, the original number of six or seven would be abysmally low. The ideal representation from Scotland, I suggest, would be an absolute minimum of 10, and preferably about 12. That is the only way I can see for giving the local government regions of Scotland proper representation in the European Parliament.

Mr. Ronald Bell

What does that leave for England?

Mr. Fletcher

I hear my hon. and learned Friend's question. England has to decide for its regions and what their identities are. It is my job in this Parliament, representing a Scottish constituency, to try to represent the interests of Scotland, and I am sure that English Members, being in a majority, will be equally forceful in representing the English interest.

My plea is that there should be a considerable disparity in the numbers of electors in each constituency. I believe this to be inevitable, and it is no bad thing if we are able to represent, perhaps on a local government basis, the best interests of Scotland, or Wales and of Northern Ireland and the best interests of the regions of England in the European Parliament. That is why I firmly believe that local government gives the basis for constituency arrangements and for much easier local identity as between the people of this country and the Parliament in Europe.

Because of the tactics adopted by the Government so far, with their lack of respect for the views of this Parliament, the passing of the direct elections Bill will coincide with the passing of the devolution Bill, and both measures will invite the closest scrutiny from fried and foe alike. These two major pieces of constitutional legislation will simultaneously rock this old boat, and Westminster will be hard put to digest the major issues which will be presented on the Floor of the House, presumably in Committee of the whole House in both cases.

If those Bills are to have any chance of succeeding, during the coming recess, whenever that is, the Government's business managers will have to acquire skills of a far higher order than they have exhi- bited so far on both these subjects and, in fact, in the conduct of all their business.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

In all the long and rather murky story of the way in which this country has been manoeuvred against its will into ever greater entanglement in the Common Market, I doubt whether the House has ever been treated quite so deplorably as it has tonight. We are now debating this issue with a whole series of conflicting statements about what is happening in Brussels, and even without knowing whether the point at issue has or has not been decided before the end of the debate. It will not surprise me if some of my hon. Friends decide to show their opinion of the Government's handling of the matter by voting against the Government motion in the Lobby tonight.

I very much regret that, since this debate is now technically on the Adjournment, my hon. Friends and I cannot move the amendment which we wished to move, requiring the Government not to commit themselves to any convention or agreement for direct elections until this House had voted, as well as debated, this issue. At no time so far has this House or the electorate approved of the momentous constitutional step of introducing in this country direct elections to an Assembly outside it. Until both Parliament and the electorate have done so, I do not believe that the Government have any right or authority to commit this country to any sort of agreement or convention involving such a constitutional revolution.

Not merely did the Select Committee fail to weigh the arguments for and against direct election—they did not try. They plunged into the mechanics of the operation, and that deprives their Report of a great deal of serious value. It is rather more sensible to decide whether there is a case for having direct elections for the Assembly before one starts to argue on the number, geographical methods of election, and so forth.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

As a member of the Select Committee, may I tell the right hon. Gentleman that our terms of reference excluded the principle of elections. They related merely to the means of achieving that end.

Mr. Jay

It was nothing of the kind. I discussed the terms of reference with the Leader of the House, and the words that this House approved were to consider proposals for direct elections. They thus clearly included the merits one way or another. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State tonight used the phrase "wide terms of reference", which enabled it to discuss these matters. I am not blaming the Select Committee, but I am saying that it is a pity that it ignored the main issue. But as it failed to do so, I hope that the House will seriously consider the case for and against direct elections to the Assembly.

I need hardly point out that there is no legal obligation under the treaty for Member States to introduce direct elections. The Foreign Office originally pretended that it was, but faced with the wording of Article 138 has now wisely retreated to admitting that it is not a treaty obligation but a political commitment. Indeed, so far from being a legal obligation under the treaty, it is doubtful, as Mr. Leolin Price, QC, pointed out, whether the present proposals are legal under the treaty at all.

Article 138 proposes elections in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States. But there is now no proposal for uniform procedures in all Member States. Therefore, formally these proposals are not within the terms of the Treaty of Rome. But even if the proposals are reduced to the status of a political commitment, they are a political commitment only of the Government and not, as yet, of this Parliament—and certainly not of the electorate.

As has been pointed out, the electorate did not vote in the referendum for direct elections. There was no mention at all of direct elections in the Government's referendum manifesto which I now have in my hand, and which was delivered to every voter at public expense in the referendum campaign. Indeed, to remove any doubt about this—and the document was signed by the then Prime Minister—the Government carefully and specifically omitted any reference to direct elections in that manifesto. If the Government thought that they were obtaining a mandate for such elections or wished to do so, they would have included a mention of them in their manifesto, but they did not.

Indeed, in the constitutional section of that manifesto entitled Will Parliament lose its power? the Government in effect did exactly the reverse. They said: No new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to the British Government and the British Parliament. Secondly, they said: The Minister representing Britain can veto any proposal for a new law or new tax if he considers it to be against British interests. The whole emphasis in that manifesto was on the power of Ministers to defend British interests and their responsibility to the British Parliament for what they did in Brussels. It was on that basis that the public voted in the referendum.

I therefore go as far as the referendum result, but I do not go beyond it because we have no right to do so, and I hope that other hon. Members, particularly the Manifesto Group, will do the same as I. None of us has any authority from the electorate to go beyond that. Indeed, as the Minister will remember, the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir R. Kirk) said on the Continent after the referendum that it was not a vote for federation, and my right hon. Friend fairly said that he agreed that that was correct.

Some hon. Members may argue, I suppose—not my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), who is very frank, although I do not think that he would claim he has a mandate from the electorate for what he is proposing—that direct elections to this Assembly are not a step towards a federal or unitary State. If so, what is the point of holding such elections at all? The simple truth is surely that either this proposed Assembly will have some real power, in which case adherence to it is a step towards some sort of federal State and a loss of real independence by this country, for which the electorate has not voted. Or else it will not have real power, in which case it is a waste of time and a good deal of public money. That is the fundamental dilemma which it seems to me so many propagandists have been trying to conceal from the public.

The real danger to this country is that at present British Ministers are at any rate in some real sense responsible to this House for their actions—not as responsible as some of us might wish, but they are responsible none the less for what they do in Brussels as well as anywhere else. But if we establish another directly elected Parliament that responsibility will become blurred and Ministers will say—I can almost imagine the present Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food saying—"You may not like what we have been doing. I do not like it much myself, but this other elected body has voted for it."

I believe that if we retreat down this road we shall weaken the authority of this Parliament—as my hon. Friend agrees we shall—with only a remote chance, or a gamble, that a new-fangled body will reflect the opinion of the British electorate or have any real control over the executive power in Brussels. The British electorate will have only the most indirect and remote influence—if any at all—over the legislative and executive machine and decisions emerging from Brussels. It would be a classical case of sacrificing the substance for the sake of the shadow. The net result would be a major loss of democratic control by the British people over their own legislation and their own Government.

Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)

Could my right hon. Friend explain why it would mean a further loss of control as a result of direct elections? I understand that he may think that there has been a loss already, but how would direct elections extend it?

Mr. Jay

It would be extended because it would enable British Ministers to say that they could ignore in future the decisions of this Parliament because of some shadowy authority of another Parliament. That is my reason for being opposed to direct elections in principle.

Had I and some of my hon. Friends been able to move our amendment we would have suggested that the Government should not reach any commitment in Brussels until the House had voted on this central issue. My right hon. Friend told us tonight that any convention, agreement or treaty which was reached would be subject to ratification of this House at a later date, in addition to the legislation that would follow. I recognise that he has gone some way to meet us, but not the whole way. We do not know that the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary will not tonight commit the Government and recommend the ratification of such a treaty to this House, and we know from past experience that we shall be told that we are committed and therefore the Government morally must request the House to carry the matter through. Although the Minister has gone some part of the way tonight, his offer does not fully satisfy me or some of my hon. Friends.

On top of this we must reflect on the situation in which the House is placed tonight as a matter of procedure. I find it difficult to believe that many hon Members will be prepared to support the Government motion this evening.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The winding up speeches are clue to begin at 9.35 p.m. There are still eight hon. Members who have been present throughout the debate who wish to speak. I want to accommodate as many as I can.

8.53 p.m.

Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)

Naturally I respect your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I can afford to be brief.

I must join many other hon. Members in regretting that on this central issue we have a ritual tribal dance of a debate rather than a reality. We have become accustomed to the fact that when we are discussing Community matters, whatever the overt attitude of mind of the Government may be, the House has little, if any, opportunity to express its will in a way which matters to the Government, and upon which the Government can be influenced seriously.

Personally, I am deeply committed to the whole principle of the EEC, but I do not think that this is a proper or right way for the House of Commons to be treated in its relationship with the Community.

I must join other hon. Members in the comments and criticisms made in this matter. It seems to me that if the Government are to carry the House with them in the reasonable and proper development of Community activities, it is necessary to have a much improved method of handling EEC matters. We must have a real distinction separating the central matters which must be subject to proper and adequate discussion, at a timely point which is valid and important to the Government. This has not been the case in the practical EEC issues with which we have had to deal in the past two years. I have a sincere and deep resentment against the attitude of mind which has been displayed in the handling of these affairs in this House.

Mrs. Dunwoody

We are debating it at a much earlier hour than usual.

Mr. Davies

That is one advantage. Even with debates lasting longer than this, they have been at a time and in a form which have no influence one way or another.

The debate so far has revealed the dilemma with which we are faced. The Report of the Select Committee is a prosaic, factual document dealing with the mechanics, but we are inevitably drawn into discussion of the fundamentals of the issue because those fundamentals, although rehearsed in this House before, have never come to the point of crunch at a time when it matters—and that is now. The point of crunch is now. However much ratification takes place, or however much perhaps the approval of the House may be sought, let us be in no doubt that at this point crucial decisions are being reached, and they are being reached without the benefit of a consolidated view of this House being expressed in real and proper form.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is not present, because I would like to say something about his views on the European Parliament itself. He said that no artificial bounds can be set to the extension of its powers, that the extension of the authority of the EEC State would itself dictate the limits of those powers. I say to him, with great respect because he is such a considerable expert in these matters, that he is not correct. A distinction must be drawn between what is the range of powers which the European Parliament can draw to itself and those which are prescribed and are clearly within the treaty, as is also the method by which those powers can be extended. The Parliament has no powers of auto-extension within its own capacity. It must deal with the Community system, and the change of the law and the granting of additional powers of the Community system requires that it shall be the Council of Ministers which, in the last resort, shall give its authority.

It is erroneous to imagine that we are in the course now of a formal, directly-elected Parliament which has within its grasp the totality of any powers it may wish to assume to itself without regard to the rights of Government. That is not true. It would be dangerous and damaging for it to be left on the record that that is the case. Moreover, there is a substantial difference between the reality of competence and the reality of powers. I believe that the competence of the Community as it stands was the subject of the referendum, and that the Government received an overwhelming majority within the framework of that competence, as defined within the framework of the treaties, to act for the benefit of the country, and to sink within a common framework the activities of this country in this important and vital field, believing, as I believe the country quite rightly did, that in this matter it was much better for us all to act in common accord in a community than it would be to endeavour to act out our part in isolation.

Mr. Jay

The right hon. Gentleman would not deny that there was no mention of direct elections in the Labour Party manifesto.

Mr. Davies

There was no need for there to be. Every hon. Member who took an interest in these matters knew very well what were the contents of the Treaty of Rome. We all knew what this country had signed a treaty to accede to. We all knew very well, in terms of the referendum, that it was within the context of that treaty that we had given the authorities of this country the right so to proceed, and believed that it was in the interests of this country so to do. To suggest otherwise is a poor, concocted argument which has little validity for the fundamentals of the issue.

Let us be clear that the powers of a directly-elected European Parliament are still circumscribed by the provisions of the treaty and that the Parliament itself can do nothing to change them on its own. It seems to me that as in this Parliament, so in a European Parliament, the reality of the requirements of Parliament, whatever they may be, is the control of the executive, to try to hold the executive within the confines of the people's will as expressed through this House.

I do not believe that a directly elected European Parliament will filch our powers. It is an ally to the Westminster Parliament. The complexity of governmental activities and the economic powers which are expanded year by year are so great that one needs every ally one can get to try to help Governments in such issues.

I regard the European Parliament as a force to help Westminster and Westminster as a force to help the European Parliament. I would be unhappy if we were in competition with our colleagues in Europe who are there to help and support us. I cannot in any way subscribe to the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South that a directly elected Parliament is a threat to our future. On the contrary, it is a powerful ally, for which we should be thankful and which we should support.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)

I agree with much of what the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) said. But I disagree with him in one respect, because I am grateful to the Government for having brought forward the debate so that we can discuss the matter at an early hour. They have provided us with three hours and although that is not enough, it is better to have the debate now than not to have it at all.

It is foolish to suggest that the matter is not important. The decision about direct elections has not changed the powers of this Parliament, but it will increase the moral authority of the European Parliament. That will help to reduce the democratic gap which exists in the Community and which many critics of the Community have pointed out over the last four or five years. Direct elections will in no way take over the powers from the House. They will enable the two Parliaments to act more effectively and in a more complementary manner.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) suggested that in some way Ministers would cease to be responsible to the House once there was a directly elected European Parliament. I cannot accept that doctrine. Ministers are responsible to the House and the House has a duty to ensure that they act in appropriate ways within the European Community.

I shall take up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North about the referendum. I speak only for myself, but I addressed a number of meetings during the referendum campaign and in each of my speeches I referred to the European Parliament and I said that I looked forward to the day when direct elections took place to establish a larger measure of democratic control over Community institutions. During those meetings speakers who were opposed to the Common Market talked of direct elections, and there is no doubt that the electorate of the time was not aware of the possibility of direct elections at the appropriate time.

Mr. Jay

While giving full credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) for his candour, I am sure that he will agree that the Government's manifesto, of which 25 million copies were printed, was more important than his election speeches.

Mr. Roper

I was not able to draft the manifesto. Comments have been made about the various figures coming from Brussels in the last few weeks and about those we have had this evening. As the figures go up, the more delighted I am with the efforts it appears my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and British officials are making in achieving a better representation for this country in the new European Parliament. I congratulate my right hon. Friends if the figures the Prime Minister can agree to after the meeting approach the figures quotod.

The original proposal by the European Parliament was for only 67 Members for the United Kingdom. In evidence to the Select Committee I suggested that 86 would be an appropriate number, with a European Parliament made up of 418 Members. The figures which were quoted at seven o'clock this evening approach those figures. Perhaps after my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has heard the result of this debate we may reach a total of 418, with 86 for the United Kingdom. Things seem to be moving in that direction.

I turn to a more important matter. As we approach direct elections over the next two years, the House and the Government will have to think about ways of informing the electorate about their implications, and not merely in the election campaigns. They will have to give people an idea of what a European election is. The budget proposals of the European Commission, to be considered by the Council of Ministers in the near future, include a figure of 400,000 units of account for a special information campaign on the direct election proposal. What is the Government's attitude to that? What sum will they add to that amount to make it an effective campaign in this country as well as elsewhere?

I hope that in due course we may also hear the Government's view about the financing of the election campaigns. Whatever attitude parties may take to the general argument in favour of financing political activity in this country, there is something to be said for consideration of public finance when we have a new set of elections thrust upon us.

I should like next to say something about the question of Members of this House having an opportunity to see the activities of the European Parliament before the direct elections take place. Together with the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), the right hon. Member for Knutsford and some of my hon. Friends, I had the opportunity last week to visit the European Parliament. I found it a most interesting and informative experience. I learned a great deal more about it by spending 48 hours in Luxembourg than I could by reading all the many documents that come our way.

I hope that in the next 12 months the Government will make facilities available so that in preparation for direct elections all hon. Members who wish to do so may see the European Parliament at work. They will then realise that a dual mandate for a long term is impossible.

Mr. Marten

I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that. Does he not think that it would have been right for the Select Committee to see the European Parliament in practice before making its report?

Mr. Roper

The Select Committee was set a very tight timetable. As I was not a member of it, it would not be proper for me to comment on the way in which it carried out its work. It acted with alacrity and produced a report with which I have no difficulty in agreeing, although the hon. Gentleman may find it more difficult to do so.

If there is not a dual mandate, we shall need to consider what the links between the members of the European Parliament and Members of this House should be. I very much agree with what was said in the debates in March by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) and the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—that it is not a matter for institutional links but rather for working out other ways, probably through the parties.

The first report from the Select Committee is a valuable document for which I believe the House can be grateful. I very much hope that it will be possible for the Government after hearing the debate to make an agreement along the lines I have suggested.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

I shall make a very short contribution to this debate. I think that in the bicentennial year of America no one should underestimate the potential power of the embryonic Parliament. Of course, this is arguable, and people have argued it. So much of this is concerned with semantics. The legal powers of the Parliament of Europe, whether directly elected or mandated, are very circumscribe, but it is in the nature of human experience to realise that once this body is directly elected it will move from strength to strength. No doubt that will happen.

I alone in my party had doubts about this country's entry to the Common Market. Now that we are in it, I am all for a directly elected European Parliament. To whom is the Commission in Brussels responsible? Is it responsible to this House? Of course it is not. Is it responsible to anybody? No. I look forward to the time when the European Parliament evolves in such a way that it exercises direct control over its executive. Only in that way shall we have a democratic Europe.

We in this country and in this House are having the worst of all worlds. We do not control many of the things in the Common Market. Our Ministers are inadequate for this purpose. Many of the criticisms made today are criticisms not of the Common Market but of the way in which the Government and the House deal with the Common Market. Whatever the reasons for it, whether we are pro-Europe or anti-Europe, we deplore the limited time given for this important debate. It is clearly a charade. What will the Prime Minister announce at 10 p.m.? Everyone knows that the agreement was virtually made before the Prime Ministers met. The negotiations were already virtually complete.

If the Government care about the Common Market and want a good relationship between the Common Market and the House, they are not going the right way about it in the way they are treating the House.

I come to the question whether there should be direct elections in 1978. It seems to me from what the Minister of State said when he was repeating the two qualifications that the Prime Minister put on them that the Government were doubting their own capacity. Apparently, every other European country can achieve direct elections by May or June 1978. Why not this country? Why the two qualifications? I think that the two qualifications should go. If we are to have direct elections, let us have them in May or June 1978. It is important to have them at the same time as the elections in other parts of Europe.

It is very important to have a uniform system of elections. Everyone knows that other European countries use a proportional system for elections. It should apply here. If we are to move out of this very difficult stage for this country, when we are still emotionally out of Europe—I grant the right hon. Gentleman that point anyway; we have not moved forward since the referendum—it will be much better if we had a uniform system of elections because we are bound to move in that direction.

The hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) talked about the numbers game. He must be very careful not to put a premium on independence. For example, the number of representatives for Northern Ireland when compared with the Republic of Ireland leads one to believe that it would be better off if it were independent. Comparisons between Wales and Luxembourg or Scotland and Denmark lead us to believe that we must be careful about how the numbers for the European Parliament are allocated. I say no more about that. Clearly it will be a difficult matter.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that there was no historical analogy for this situation but that of the Rump Parliament. Clearly there is an important distinction. The Rump Parliament did not have a referendum. At that time there had been no referendum in this country. We can argue about the semantics and about whether the posture and method of the former Prime Minister were right, whether he was absolutely frank, and so on. But the people of this country took a momentous decision—

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Against the facts.

Mr. Hooson

—and it is far too late to turn back the clock.

9.17 p.m.

Sir Anthony Hoyle (Richmond, Surrey)

I agree fully with the last remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). Again and again the comment has been made in this debate that the decision has yet to be taken. But the decision on principle has been taken. It has been taken in a referendum and in many votes in the House.

When the Select Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, was set up, the plan was that it should go into details about how we should carry out direct elections but not go into detail about the principle, which had already been decided in the House and in a referendum. Therefore, our aim—and this was made clear by the right hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Irving)—was to produce some thoughts and ideas in time for them to have some effect on the Government and the decision which has to be taken with the other eight members of the Community.

The Select Committee did not go to Brussels; it did not take a lot of oral evidence: there was not time to go to Brussels or to take a lot of oral evidence. However, we considered a great deal of written evidence and came to conclusions on the four main issues which we were asked by the House to consider. We met the time scale demanded of us by returning and publishing our report in time for the Government to take it into account in the discussions which have been going on in Brussels in the past two months. I should hope and I should welcome the Government's reaching agreement today in Brussels with the other eight Governments on a system of direct elections. It is possible to do that and to meet the date of 1978.

The Select Committee is now moving on to its second report and we hope to make it available to the House possibly by the end of October. We have already taken public evidence from many members of local authorities in Scotland, Ulster and England and Wales. It is becoming increasingly clear to us that all those representatives of local authorities think that we can meet the 1978 deadline, that the work can be done and that the organisation can be put in hand. I have no doubt that, if agreement is reached today in Brussels, we shall not be one of the countries dragging their feet when the time comes for direct elections in 1978.

I support the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) on the question of the European dimension on European business in this Chamber. It is not good enough that hon. Members should spend a great deal of time in producing a document for this House, that arrangements should be made to debate it in the House at a reasonable time last Friday, and that it should then be delayed and rushed, as it is tonight. in a three-hour debate before other major business is taken at 10 o'clock.

Again and again this has happened in the past, and I ask the Minister who is replying to the debate to give us an assurance tonight that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will do all they can to press the Government to consult the House on these European issues with greater seriousness.

We all accept that the Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office take these issues seriously, but it is just not good enough that week in and week out business which affects Europe—European business with a capital B—is always taken late at night or in the early hours of the morning and pushed into a corner by the Leader of the House when he states the business of the week. I support the comments of my right hon. and hon. Friends and by hon. Members on the Government side who have said that the Government should take the European dimension much more seriously.

I hope that the Prime Minister has now reached or is reaching agreement in Brussels on direct elections for 1978. If he is, I welcome the decision of Her Majesty's Government to press ahead with direct elections for 1978. I hope and trust that over the course of the next year or two before the 1978 elections take place we shall have a chance to hold debates on the subject at a reasonable hour and with reasonable thought.

9.21 p.m.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe)

I shall not detain the House very long, because I find this a very depressing occasion. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will forgive me if I say that I very desperately want to believe what he says about no decision having been taken at the present time. But when I am at the point, as an elected Member of Parliament, of believing that we shall have to pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost causes, and to rely on the good sense of the Gaullist party to get us out of this very difficult mess concerning direct elections, I hardly feel that the House of Commons is being treated seriously.

This is one of the most fundamental issues we have ever been asked to decide. What I find very shocking about it—I use the word advisedly—is that, whatever right hon. and hon. Members have said tonight, I do not believe that the British electorate as a whole has ever had explained to it precisely what the commitment to direct elections will be. There was no explanation of this in the documents put out by the Government at the time of the referendum. I do not believe that the electorate is yet aware of the implications.

As a Member of the European Assembly, I do not believe that a Parliament of the size recommended by the Select Committee will be content simply to remain an impotent body. I agree with those right hon. and hon. Members who have made it plain in this debate that as federalists they envisage the extension of powers of the European Parliament. I think that that is almost inevitable. But it can be done, I feel, only at the expense of a democratic system which in this country has been evolved over hundreds of years. There is at least a feeling of involvement between the elected Members of Parliament and their constituents.

Let us be realistic about it. How many of us, working as we do every week in our constituencies, really believe that we are able to get the complete feeling of our constituents about the political issues of the day? How much more difficult will it be, then, for a European Member, seeking to represent 10 times the population that we seek to represent in this House, to know what those people believe and think and, what is more, to tell them what is happening in the European Parliament?

I despair at the present lack of machinery in the House of Commons to enable us to tell the electorate and the people what is being done in their name. Ministers make package deals. Those of us who wish to examine their details are told that, unfortunately, this is part of a bargaining process and that we can only discuss them when they come back to the House of Commons. But this is never at a time when these matters are likely to be reported, never at a time when the House is full, never in a way that enables people to know the many changes taking place, not only in the constitution of this country, but in their own rights.

I believe very strongly that we should not accept either the principle of direct elections to a European Assembly or the machinery that is being thrust upon us. Within their very limited terms of reference, the members of the Select Committee endeavoured to give information as well as they were able. But, once it had been decided that they were not allowed to examine the principle, and once they were told that they had to work at great speed and bring their report before the House so that a decision could be taken tonight, they were limited in such a way that they were not able to produce the very best of reports.

The existing European Parliament has a number of rights to question the Execu- tive, to set up public accounts committees and to change its existing procedure in a way that would give it a right to question the Commission and to seek the information that would enable it to pass on the facts and figures to the electorate of the Nine. It does not do so. What is very plain is that, the closer matters come to home political issues, the further away agreement goes.

Max van der Stoel said only last week that what made him despair about the stagnation of the Community was the lack of real political will. This has arisen not because individual Governments are not committed to the idea of European unity—many are more committed than I believe they should be—but because the reality of politics, once it enters into a debate, means that those who are elected must consider the interests of their constituents. That will not happen with vast electorates further removed from the system of government, as they would be in a European Assembly. It does not happen today. We do not discuss what is happening in the European Community in our name today.

I only wish that there were a motion that we could vote against so that we could make it plain how strongly we believe that the sovereignty of this Parliament should not be challenged. It has survived 900 years because it is a democratic system, and it must be protected at all costs.

9.28 p.m.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

One of the problems of a squeezed up debate of this kind is that one cannot debate and one cannot intervene in the speeches of other hon. Members. I deplore this kind of debate. Equally, I deplore the fact that the decision, apparently, has been taken already. No one is fooled by the fact that the Minister of State will telephone the Prime Minister with the results of this debate. It it is quite absurd to think that people will believe that. He will telephone, of course, but how can he give an account of this debate on the telephone?

Since we are debating the Report of the Select Committee, I want to be one of the few to concentrate on the Report as such. In doing so, I borrow a word from the Left wing—not necessarily the Left wing here but the Left wing in international circles—and christen the members of the Select Committee "lackeys of the Government". For that is precisely what they are. The Government said they wanted this Report by a certain date, and the members of the Select Committee bowed to the Government and produced it by a certain date. In doing that they have done great damage to the system of Select Committees.

In their Report, the members of the Select Committee have given no reasons for their conclusions. What is more, the outcome was predictable before they even sat. Anyone looking at the Committee's membership could have said "This is what they will recommend", and, hey presto, they recommended it.

Sir Anthony Royle

As a member of the Committee—

Mr. Marten

I am not giving way—

Sir Anthony Royle rose

Mr. Marten

No. I did not interrupt when the hon. Gentleman was speaking—

Sir Anthony Royle

The hon. Gentleman is attacking—

Mr. Marten

Indeed, I am, and I shall go on attacking the Committee. I am attacking the whole method of work of the Committee and not the individual members of it.

The idea of having a Minister on a Select Committee like this was very odd. The Minister should have been called as a witness. The two Members of the European Assembly should not have been on the Committee. They have a vested interest. They should have been called by the Committee as witnesses. Why were not more witnesses called? The Committee sat once a week. Why did it not sit more often and hear more witnesses? Why, for example, did not the Committee hear Mr. David Butler, the Fellow at Nuffield College who is a great expert on elections? Recently he wrote a very interesting letter to The Times in the course of which he said that, if the Rotherham by-election swing to the Conservatives had been translated into elections for a European Parliament, the results would have been that Labour would have won nine seats, the Conservatives 56, the Liberals none, the Scottish National Party none, and the Ulster Unionists two. That is an extremely good example of why the Committee should have gone into this in much more depth by taking evidence from people who know about this sort of thing. That affects the timing which was a matter for this Report.

Sir Anthony Royle

Sour grapes.

Mr. Marten

It is not sour grapes. It is a bunch of grapes on my right, rather sour from Richmond, I am afraid.

Why did they not visit the Assembly? They had the time. Why did they not look at this curious Assembly and take the evidence from that? Why is there no report in respect of the costs of the whole operation? In these days when we are told that we have to cut down on expenditure, there is no question of what it will cost to hold these elections or who will pay for them. I hope that there is no question of the elections being financed out of Community money, because it would be deeply offensive for British elections to be financed out of foreign money.

If one looks at the state of the Common Market today what does one see? It is sterile and ineffective. It is disintegrating. It is in an advanced stage of erosion. It is suffering from political anaemia and it is moving backwards in despair". Those are the words of the present President in Office in the Council of Ministers, the Dutch Foreign Secretary, Mr. van der Stoel, speaking in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday 7th July.

If that is the position of the Community, surely we do not want to leap into this proposition without a lot more thought and a lot more investigation by the Select Committee. Then we have the Community now being run by the Troika of London, Paris and Bonn. This needs to be looked at because our friends in Luxembourg, with whom we had a very good lunch the other day, and in Brussels, and the Belgian Parliament, are getting extremely worried about it. But some starry-eyed people such as my hon. Friends the Members for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) believe that all this will be solved by having direct elections to the European Parliament. There is not one shred of evidence that directly electing members will make one jot of difference at all. Here we are being put to all this expense, for which this country will have to pay—

Mr. William Clark (Croydon, South)

What expense?

Mr. Marten

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Clarke) asks what expense. I suggest there will be the cost of the elections. There will be the cost of maintaining 200 extra Members of the European Parliament and their salaries and staff. One visit to the European Parliament shows that we have a huge building to go to with researchers and beautiful secretaries and lovely offices. All this will be multiplied by at least two or three if we go ahead with direct elections. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South asks "What expense?" He is a member of the Select Committee and it was up to him to produce the cost of the whole thing. He has been thoroughly irresponsible in not going into the costs but making this recommendation.

We have the ridiculous affair of the Parliament shuffling from Luxembourg to Strasbourg at a cost of £3 million a year, with 800 officials and 60 tons of paper going up and down. What an absurdity. Let us hold the proposition up until we get some sense out of that alone.

I just wonder what the extra 200 Members of Parliament will do when they get there with their lovely researchers and lovely secretaries and lovely expenses allowances. What will they do which the 198 cannot do at the moment? We understand that they will not get any extra powers, so what will they do? Obviously they will produce plenty more paper and more advice which no one listens to.

The first thing we ought to do is to agree on the electoral system which will be used for the direct elections. It should be the same franchise throughout the whole of the Community. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said in his speech that it is quite wrong and quite against Article 183 to go ahead with direct elections with different franchises in each country. We need to get right the structure of the Community and the relationship between the Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Commission before bothering about direct elections. We must get right the aims of the Community. Many hon. Members have said that it must be either a federal Europe or L'Europe des patries. As a Conservative, I am in favour of L'Europe des patries. So, too, is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and, I believe, the Government.

There are many other reasons for my disagreement with the Select Committee's Report. The Committee acted irresponsibly and was the lackey of the Government. It bent to the Government's will, which a Select Committee should never do.

Mr. William Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to protest at the imbalance in the selection of speakers in this debate. I realise that it is not a point of order, but I have made it nevertheless.

9.36 p.m.

Mr. Reginald Maudling (Chipping Barnet)

Whatever this debate may have revealed, it is clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) has not changed his views about the Community. I am a little baffled because he does not seem to know whether he wants an Assembly with more or fewer powers. Perhaps he could consider that a directly elected Assembly might be able all the more effectively to exercise its existing powers of supervision over the Executive.

If this debate has been critical and suspicious of the Government, it is their own fault. The Prime Minister made clear when he was Foreign Secretary that the purpose of setting up the Select Committee was that the Government would need to know the views of the House before entering into any commitment.

The Committee was established and it reported expeditiously. A debate was fixed for Friday last week—the last possible moment before the meeting of the Heads of Government. The Government allowed the business of Friday to be lost and proposed discussion of this issue as the last item of business tonight. They have always been too casual about European business, but the suggestion that a matter of this importance should be discussed last was discourteous to the House, to say the least.

Under pressure, the Government agreed to this debate's taking place between 7 and 10 o'clock. The Minister of State told us that no commitment would be made by the Prime Minister before he had heard the views of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) told us that he had received reports that definite decisions had already been taken—including a membership of the Parliament of 410, with a United Kingdom membership of 81.

It may be that the Prime Minister is waiting for a brief telephone call to tell him to carry on because the House has not objected. He may have told the other Heads of Government that there will be no problem, that he will have to clear the matter formally before going ahead. All this may be technically consistent with what has been said, but it is not the way to treat the House.

It would not be knowing the views of the House before entering into any commitment. The Prime Minister cannot know the view of the House for some time yet, but I suspect that he may have already entered into some commitment, conditional on its not being overthrown by the debate. We shall wait to see what emerges, but if the figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon prove correct, the House will feel that it has been badly treated by the Government.

Mr. Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

On the BBC television 9 o'clock news it was announced that agreement had been reached. It was mentioned that at the last minute the Prime Minister had put in a joker by saying that he would like to hold a decision until after 10 o'clock because he wanted to wait for this debate, but it was clear that everybody regards the decision as having been taken.

Mr. Maudling

That makes it all the more important in the interests of the House that in reply the Minister should categorically state what the position is in the light of the reports that we have received from more than one hon. Member.

I turn briefly to the issues involved in the debate. The Minister of State rightly said that we are committed in principle to direct elections by the Treaty of Rome. Of course, we are not committed by Article 138 to the details of any particular scheme. However, we are morally committed to work as best we can, genuinely and honestly, to try to agree on a scheme for direct elections.

Article 138 of the Treaty of Rome can have no other meaning.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman rightly said that there is no automatic extension of the powers of the European Assembly or Parliament if it becomes directly elected. That is true. That has been emphasised by several hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) disagreed. Not for the first time, I thought that his remarkable eloquence concealed a certain lack of logic. He appeared to be arguing that the European Parliament, by virtue of being directly elected, would be able indefinitely to extend its powers. He neglected the fact that we are still directly elected, thereby implying that we should not be able to defend ourselves. That is a total lack of logic.

It is also a complete misunderstanding of the proper situation that was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies)—namely, that we should look upon the two Parliaments not as competitors but as cooperators. There are jobs and duties for each Parliament to perform.

There is the specific duty laid upon the European Parliament by the Treaty of Rome to perform certain functions that are additional to the functions of this Parliament. We have our duties, and they are specified in the Treaty. Both Parliaments have separate functions and both need to be done effectively. Both are involved very much with the control of the Executive, and in our view both can be more effectively carried out by directly elected bodies than by indirectly elected bodies.

The fourth main group of issues to be raised in the discussion in Brussels today and tomorrow is the main subjects of the report of the Select Committee—namely, the size and distribution. These are obviously extremely difficult problems and no final solution will satisfy everyone. However, we believe that the proposals made by the Select Committee are about right.

The date for the direct elections will be May or June 1978. Normally it is right to aim at a particular date. There may be some slippage, but if we do not have a target at which to aim, we shall not shoot accurately. I hope very much that the target of May or June will be achieved.

The duration of the Parliament is put at four years or five years. That seems sensible as between the one and the other. As the Minister of State said, I cannot see very much to choose between the two.

The right hon. Gentleman explained the dual mandate in a different way from that to which we are accustomed— namely, as if it were only a matter of allowing people to become Members of the European Parliament if already Members of a national Parliament. I have always looked at this problem in the light of the burden falling upon those who are Members of both Parliaments. It would seem that the burden of being a Member of both Parliaments would be too much to carry. I do not seek to lay down firm rules and I do not seek formally to disbar as I should prefer to leave the matter optional, but we should make it clear that anyone who tries to undertake both duties simultaneously is taking on more than lie should judiciously attempt.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Does my right hon. Friend think that as time goes on it may well be that most of the Members of the European Parliament will not have served in this House? Does he think that desirable? Does he think it preferable that someone should have served in this House and acquired the feeling of the place before moving on?

Mr. Maudling

I entirely agree. I was commenting on simultaneous membership of the two Parliaments. My hon. Friend has a very good point.

The main argument in this debate has been not about the report of the Select Committee but about the principle of direct elections. The old argument has been rehearsed that we have heard so often—namely, whether the elections should take place in principle. It was made quite clear by the Prime Minister when the Select Committee was set up, or when the proposal came forward for setting it up, that it could cover every issue with the obvious exception of the Treaty and the obligation to hold such elections. The Select Committee faith- fully reported within that context, and this House should approve its report.

9.45 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. John Tomlinson)

May I at the outset refer to the point raised at the beginning of this debate by the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) and which has been referred to by a number of hon. Members? Since the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon raised his point of order, we have been in touch with Brussels again. Of course there has been some discussion about direct elections this evening, but the Prime Minister told his colleagues that he could not subscribe to any decision until he had received news of tonight's House of Commons debate. I understand that the European Council is returning to the subject tomorrow. I am sure that this news will reassure all those who have been concerned about this issue.

Having made the position clear to the House, I should like to begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Irving) on having introduced the debate. He and the Select Committee have done an excellent job, and this House is deeply indebted to them for the thoroughness and speed with which they have dealt with this part of their task. I am sure that that is something in which all hon. Members will join, perhaps with the exception of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who I think reduced somewhat the standard of debate by the type of terminology he used in his reference to the Select Committee. With that odd exception, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the Select Committee for the speed and thoroughness with which it did its job.

May I now deal with the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon? I have already dealt with his assertions concerning the decisions which he alleged had been made. He was, however, I thought, rather churlish in his complaint about what he described as the perfunctory handling by the Government of the European business in general and direct elections in particular.

Mr. Hurd

Before the hon. Gentleman proceeds with that point, would he comment on the proposed total number of seats and the United Kingdom total which I gave? Are those correct?

Mr. Tomlinson

I am not in a position to comment on any numbers. There have been all kinds of suggestions. [Interruption.] An hon. Member shouts from a sedentary position that it was on the television. If I were to subscribe to the truth of everything that has been seen and heard on television, there might be conflicting views about what the truth is. I have made a clear statement and I stick to it. I can understand the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon wanting to get away from his point. I think he was rather churlish in his complaint about the Government's handling of European business and the direct elections as being somewhat perfunctory. That suggestion I reject in its entirety, and I am sure that hon. Members will reject it as being the basic nonsense that it is.

So far we have had a two-day debate on the Green Paper, a debate in which hon. Members took perhaps a little less interest than they have in the affairs of today. But we had a full two-day debate. The fact that there was a delay in the Select Committee's starting its work almost contradicts the other observations which the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon made when he said that this House was not exercising control over the Government. It was, in fact, that very process, the exercise of control by this House over the Government, which led to the long delay between the desire of the Government to set up the Select Committee and the House in fact setting it up.

Once the House set up the Select Committee, it got down to its work with remarkable speed, the resolution having been passed on 17th May, and the Select Committee having its first meeting the following day. For that reason, I suggest that the whole House should be grateful to the Select Committee for the work which it has done.

The debate on the Report of the Select Committee is being held today instead of last Friday, and here again several hon. Members criticised the Government for their handling of the business. That debate was arranged for last Friday largely because of representations made by many hon. Members on both sides of the House, Members concerned partly because of their European commitments and wishing to be here so that they could take part. The Government readily acceded to the representations made to them, and that is why the debate was to take place on Friday.

It ill behoves hon. Members to criticise the Government for the fact that that debate did not take place when the truth is that, far from the Government's preventing it, it was the capricious behaviour of a limited number of hon. Members on the business of Thursday night that prevented Friday's debate from taking place. That ought to be made clear and understood.

Mr. Maudling

Was it not entirely within the Government's power to preserve Friday's business?

Mr. Tomlinson

I have no wish to become involved in a debate about what happened on Thursday night, but I must point out that if the Opposition Front Bench, which supported the principle of that legislation, had been able to keep a capricious group of its own Back Benchers in hand, we should have had the Government's business on the Friday.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way, and he must be allowed to continue.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Tomlinson

I wish now to turn to the principle of direct elections. The commitment to direct elections contained in the EEC Treaty has been public knowledge for many years. Article 138 of the Treaty of Rome requires that the European Assembly draw up proposals for election by direct universal suffrage, and that point was admirably underlined by the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) in his speech. The Government's legal advisers are in no doubt that such a commitment exists, and the Government have made clear that they accept that commitment.

The commitment is, I believe, clearly endorsed by British membership of the Community on the basis of the treaties, treaties which were endorsed by Parliament and the British people in the process of the referendum and the decisions of the House following the referendum. The Government have involved Parliament as closely as possible in consideration of the question of direct elections both in the debate on the Green Paper and in the other steps taken since.

Mr. William Clark

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Tomlinson

In the very limited time available to me, I wish now to refer to the question of the procedures for the subsequent discussion of direct elections. This was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State when he opened the debate. Let me make as clear as I can, since a number of hon. Members seem either not to accept what he said or to have failed to understand it, that on 29th March in the House the Prime Minister set out the procedures which the Government proposed to follow if there were to be a convention.

Before ratification, the Government would seek approval of the draft Order in Council under Section 1(3) of the European Communities Act. This would require approval by affirmative resolution of both Houses. In addition, Parliament would be given the opportunity to approve the necessary implementing legislation. This also would take place before ratification of the convention.

Should we wind up with a different form of legal instrument, I assure the House that the Government will provide Parliament with similar opportunities to consider the scheme and the implementing legislation before it comes into force. That is an assurance which hon. Members were seeking, and it is an assurance clearly and unequivocally given.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central) rose

Mr. Tomlinson

Now, on the question of power for the European Assembly—

Mr. McNamara rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister is not giving way. He must be allowed to continue.

Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Tomlinson

I come now to the question of powers for the European Assembly. This subject also has been referred to by a number of hon. Members on the assumption that somehow the pro- cess of direct elections will endow the European Assembly with a vast array of new powers. In this connection I quote from what the Prime Minister said in the two-day debate on the Green Paper: These powers will be subjected to the process of discussion, and when public opinion or opinion in this House decides that a power is worth transferring it will be transferred, but not before then. This Government have no plans for giving the Assembly further powers" —[Official Report, 29th March 1976; Vol. 908, c. 914.] That was clearly stated in the debate on the Green Paper and remains the position today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) spoke of a lack of clarity about a commitment to direct elections. He quoted some Questions asked in the House in 1975. I make it clear that in his researches he did not go back far enough. Let me draw his attention to the date of 29th January 1975 when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, in reply to a question put by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Sir P. Kirk), made it quite clear —column 389—that the principle of direct elections was established.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Minister say why that was not made plain in the Government leaflet at the time of the referendum?

Mr. Tomlinson

It surely is abundantly clear to anybody with the capacity to read Article 138 that implicit in the referendum and in the Treaty of Accession was our acceptance of the principle of direct elections laid down in the Treaty of Rome.

My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) made an admirable contribution to the debate. Let me try to reply to his specific question by saying that the Government will want to hear the views of the Select Committee concerning any addition of Government funds to ensure an effective election campaign. I hope that the Second Report of the Select Committee will address itself to these many other questions that fall for decision at national level.

A large number of accusations have been levelled at the Government for treating this House badly. One of the complaints was made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). I hope that he will accept that the Government's intentions have been clear—namely, to obtain the fullest debate possible before a decision on direct elections is made.

Nobody was surprised when the hon. and learned Gentleman in the remainder of his speech made his customary plea for proportional representation. But I was surprised when he went on to talk about the need for care in the allocation of numbers. If there was one thing above all else that was made clear in the discussion on direct elections it was that great care should be taken to make sure that all parts of the United Kingdom received adequate representation.

The hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle) said that we should take the European dimension much more

seriously. Surely the care and attention given by the Select Committee to the subject of direct elections should have led people to debate the issues rather than to seek in this debate to rehearse well-worn speeches as to the basis of our membership of the EEC. Those decisions have been clearly taken and were supported by the vast majority in this House. They were irreversible decisions and decisions which have been clearly—

Mr. Jay rose in his place and claimed to move That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 109, Noes 196.

Division No. 233.] AYES 9.59 p.m.]
Ashton, Joe Heffer, Eric S. Parry, Robert
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Hooley, Frank Pavitt, Laurie
Atkinson, Norman Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Bell, Ronald Hughes, Roy (Newport) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hutchison, Michael Clark Reid, George
Body, Richard Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Richardson, Miss Jo
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Brotherton, Michael Jeger, Mrs Lena Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Buchan, Norman Kelley, Richard Rooker, J. W.
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Kerr, Russell Sedgemore, Brian
Canavan, Dennis Kilroy-Silk, Robert Selby, Harry
Carmichael, Neil Kinnock, Neil Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Lamble, David Sillars, James
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Lamond, James Silverman, Julius
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Skinner, Dennis
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Leadbitter, Ted Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Corbett, Robin Lee, John Swain, Thomas
Cormack, Patrick Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Crawford, Douglas Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lipton, Marcus Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Cryer, Bob Litterick, Tom Thompson, George
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) McNair-Wllson, M. (Newbury) Thome, Stan (Preston South)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McNamara, Kevin Tuck, Raphael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Madden, Max Urwin, T. W.
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Watt, Hamish
Durant, Tony Marten, Nell Welsh, Andrew
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Maynard, Miss Joan Wigley, Dafydd
Evans, John (Newton) Mendelson, John Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Fell, Anthony Mikardo, Ian Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Flannery, Martin Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Winterton, Nicholas
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Forrester, John Moate, Roger Woof, Robert
George, Bruce Molloy, William Young, David (Bolton E)
Gould, Bryan More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Newens, Stanley TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gray, Hamish Noble, Mike Mr. Arthur Lewis and
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Orbach, Maurice Mr. Ron Thomas.
Hatton, Frank Ovenden, John
Abse, Leo Bidwell, Sydney Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)
Allaun, Frank Bishop, E. S. Buchanan, Richard
Anderson, Donald Blenkinsop, Arthur Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)
Archer, Peter Boardman, H. Campbell, Ian
Armstrong, Ernest Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cant, R. B.
Ashley, Jack Boothroyd, Miss Betty Carter, Ray
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Carter-Jones, Lewis
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Cartwright, John
Bates, Alf Bradley, Tom Clemitson, Ivor
Bean, R. E. Bray, Dr Jeremy Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)
Beith, A. J. Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cohen, Stanley
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Coleman, Donald
Concannon, J. D. Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Radice, Giles
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Roberts Albert (Normanton)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Janner, Greville Robinson, Geoffrey
Cronin, John John, Brynmor Roderick, Caerwyn
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Johnson, James (Hull West) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Davidson, Arthur Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Roper, John
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Rose, Paul B.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Judd, Frank Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Deakins, Eric Kaufman, Gerald Rowlands, Ted
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Lamborn, Harry Sandelson, Neville
Dempsey, James Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Doig, Peter Lever, Rt Hon Harold Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dormand, J. D. Lomas, Kenneth Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Luard, Evan Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Drayson, Burnaby Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Duffy, A. E. P. Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunn, James A. McCartney, Hugh Small, William
Eadie, Alex McElhone, Frank Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Edge, Geoff Macfarlane, Nell Snape, Peter
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Stallard, A. W.
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Mackenzie, Gregor Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mackintosh, John P. Stoddart, David
English, Michael Maciennan, Robert Stott, Roger
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Strang, Gavin
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Magee, Bryan Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mahon, Simon Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Marks, Kenneth Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Ford, Ben Marquand, David Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Tierney, Sydney
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Mason, Rt Hon Roy Tinn, James
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Meacher, Michael Tomlinson, John
Gilbert, Dr John Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Ginsburg, David Millan, Bruce Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Golding, John Moonman, Eric Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Gourlay, Harry Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Graham, Ted Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Ward, Michael
Grant, George (Morpeth) Moyle, Roland Watkins, David
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Weitzman, David
Grocott, Bruce Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King White, Frank R. (Bury)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Oakes, Gordon White, James (Pollok)
Hardy, Peter Ogden, Eric Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) O'Halloran, Michael Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Hayman, Mrs Helene Owen, Dr David Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Padley, Waiter Williams, Sir Thomas
Hooson, Emlyn Park, George Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Horam, John Parker, John Woodall, Alec
Huckfield, Les Peart, Rt Hon Fred Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Pendry, Tom
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Perry, Ernest TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hunter, Adam Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Mr. James Hamilton and
Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Price, William (Rugby) Mr. Joseph Harper
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Question accordingly negatived.
It being after Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment lapsed, without Question put.